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Play highlights the effects of the tragedy of knife crime

DRAMATIC: A scene from No Tomorrow, a play that has shocked those in the audience

THE TAMEBRIDGE Industrial Estate in Great Barr, Birmingham was the unlikely setting for the debut of a stage play that explored the influences that can force young people into violent situations.

Performed by a cast of mainly amateur, first-time performers, No Tomorrow served as an insightful and shocking look into the lives of youths who have become entangled in trouble on the streets.

The play tells the story of a young man looking to find his identity as his older cousin is released from prison, a cousin who was himself trying to put his life back together by finding work and adapting to the news that his girlfriend gave birth to his child during his incarceration.

POIGNANT

In parts familiar and funny, and in others poignant, the story took a turn for the tragic when the younger man got caught up in an altercation and was knifed to death. The shocking scene drew audible noises of shock from the capacity audience gathered in the sprawling auditorium, the home of the Living Stones Christian Church.

“I was absolutely amazed by the performance,” said Sheldon Fogarty, better known as Rico, the founder of Voice Against Crime, the campaigning body that presented the play as part of its Positive Outlook drama and music programme.

“The play was called No Tomorrow because every person who is put in a grave because of a knife or a gun no longer has a tomorrow. It gripped the audience, both young and old, from start to finish.”

He added: “The overwhelming response as the audience stood up and applauded the cast was an unforgettable moment. It was a great pleasure to show the audience some of the fantastic work our young people have achieved on the Positive Outlook programme.

“Voice Against Crime believe every life matters, and we look forward to working with more young people to develop their gifts and talents to become the best they can be.”

The night was opened by music from singer/guitarist Diegoff, who made a passionate plea to youth to be mindful of the influences that could lead to tragedy, and echoed the anguish of parents who are being called to bury their children who have fallen victim to violent crime.

The show included another debut – the showing of the first cut of Don’t Waste Your Life, a music video written and produced by young people on Positive Outlook.

There was more performing arts on the night – a poem from Shernelle Fogarty, Rico’s daughter - a call to youth to put down their knives. Shernelle also wrote and directed No Tomorrow.

Voice Against Crime is operating in a climate of fear and concern in the West Midlands, where there have been 15 fatal stabbings and shootings across Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Sutton Coldfield, Solihull and Walsall since the turn of the year.

Speaking before the production on his decision to give up his 27-year career as a welder to work full time with Voice Against Crime, Rico said: “I am so blessed to see family and long-time friends in the audience.

“I don’t get the pay cheque I used to get every month, but I go to bed each night knowing I have made a difference. Behind each two-minute news bulletin announcing another stabbing or shooting, there’s a lot of pain and horror. We pray that none of that comes to your doors.”

Acknowledging the support of the police and the presence of officers and those who work with disaffected youth who were in the crowd, he continued: “We work closely with them. If we spent a day without the police there would be anarchy.”

ANARCHY

Inspector Clement Samuels of West Midlands Police, who was at the show, said after the performance: “I am lost for words. I only met Rico three days ago and I was blown away by his passion. The young people were amazing. We need to get this play to one of the big theatre venues in Birmingham. Stop and search is only part of the solution.

“The answer lies in the activities of groups like Voice Against Crime and activists in the churches. I encourage you as a community and as families to support events like this, on behalf of West Midlands Police, I ask you to keep it up.”

Returning to the podium to close the show, Rico added: “Our young people came up with great ideas for music and drama. They have great skills, all they need is to be directed to do the right things and they’ll be successful. Young people can inspire other young people.

“They are helping us to show youth that doing something positive can result in a better life than crime and violence often promises them, and without the threat of a prison sentence or death.”

Voice Against Crime plans to produce a feature film later this year, in addition to a series of music and arts products through the Positive Outlook programme.

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